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Classic Empire to miss Belmont Stakes with hoof abscess

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Classic Empire, who would have been the favorite in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, is out of the race owing to an abscess in his right front hoof, trainer Mark Casse said Wednesday at Belmont Park.

Classic Empire flew to New York on Tuesday from Kentucky. On Wednesday morning, "he wouldn't put the foot down," Casse said.

"He'll be better as soon as it busts open," Casse said. "He'll have instant relief, but he can't run. He's been too good to us."

The right front hoof is the same hoof that had an abscess after Classic Empire finished third in the Holy Bull Stakes in his 2017 debut.

Classic Empire was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Preakness in his last two starts. His defection leaves Lookin At Lee as the lone horse who will run in all three Triple Crown races this year.

The Belmont is now down to an expected field of 12. The draw is Wednesday.